In the first three weeks of their inaugural National Pro Fastpitch softball league season, the Pennsylvania Rebellion got off to a slow start, suffered through an agonizing losing streak and had their manager resign.
Not the type of beginning the organization expected when it took over the New York-New Jersey team and moved it to Consol Energy Park.
The resignation of Rick Bertagnolli is perplexing, considering the eagerness he showed when he got the job and the way he threw himself into preparing the team.
Stu Williams, owner of the Wild Things and Rebellion, said Bertagnolli resigned because of personal reasons Wednesday, just hours before the Rebellion were to play the Chicago Bandits in the first of a two-game homestand.
At the time, the Rebellion were on a nine-game losing streak, but no one interviewed after the game felt that was a reason even if he has rarely endured difficult stretches while coaching the softball team at California University.
He’s had so much success there, winning NCAA Division II titles in 1997 and 1998, that a losing streak no matter how long would be a roadblock for him to continue.
The slow start – 3-10 in the first 13 games – was not unexpected. The Rebellion, by benefit of being a new team, pieced together the bulk of the roster through the NPF draft, free-agent signings and trades. Many of those players had to finish the college season first, so they drifted into camp at different times throughout May and early June.
That certainly makes it difficult to build a cohesive team when some of the early practice sessions included two or three players.
Besides, the slow start has not stunted attendance, which despite poor weather has been more than 1,000 for each of the first five home games, including a near sellout for the opener June 5.
Following Bertagnolli’s resignation, the team was turned over to Stacey Rice, who along with Stephani Moore, was one of Bertagnolli’s assistant coaches. Rice not only got her first victory in the NPF after the Rebellion rallied in the seventh inning for a 2-1 win over the Bandits, but also saw the nine-game losing streak come to an end.
Williams said Rice will remain as manager for the remainder of the season and Moore will remain the assistant. Coaching turnover in the league is not unusual because many of them have other positions for their main income. Rice, for example, has been a long-time assistant coach and was recently named head coach for the Slippery Rock University softball team. Moore is Bertagnolli’s assistant at Cal.
Rice said she and Moore will work together in making decisions. If Wednesday night’s game is an indication of what might come, then that should work out fine. The players appear to be comfortable with the situation and accepting of Rice.
More wins such as the one against the Bandits will make the transition smoother, the fans more apt to come back to Consol Energy Park and the organization more stable.
Despite the recent events, give the Rebellion credit for this: They certainly have been interesting to follow.
Assistant sports editor Joe Tuscano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org